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Job Rights and Accommodations


Updated April 16, 2014

Job Rights and Accommodations

Susan, an About.com user, has experienced repeated frustrations in her work environment. Unfortunately, accommodations were not made for her and her employment was terminated. Susan is now in the midst of filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

What kinds of protections do workers have? How can an employee request a job accommodation? What can be done when accommodations are not provided?

Suzanne Gosden Kitchen is senior consultant for the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a service of the Office of Disability and Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor.

I turned to her for some answers to these questions.

Are Workers With ADHD Protected By the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)?

Suzanne Gosden Kitchen (SGK): Since 1994, employers with 15 or more employees have been required to comply with Title I of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and provides for job accommodations for applicants and employees with disabilities.

Is ADHD a Disability Under The ADA?

SGK: The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet. Therefore, some people with ADHD will have a disability under the ADA and some will not.

An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.

How Should an Employee With ADHD Request a Job Accommodation?

SGK: Job accommodation requests can be made verbally or in writing. It is generally the employee's responsibility to disclose the disability and make the job accommodation request known. Workers with disabilities can find more guidance about requesting (and negotiating) job accommodations by [accessing] the Employees' Practical Guide to Requesting and Negotiating Reasonable Accommodations Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

What Types of Job Accommodations Can Be Provided to Workers With ADHD?

SGK: Job accommodations are always provided on an individual case-by-case basis, and much depends upon the severity of the disability and the type of job being performed. However, many people with ADHD ask for similar types of job accommodations to aid memory, help with concentration or time management, reduce workplace distractions, improve organization and prioritization, multi-task, or complete paperwork. Workers with ADHD can read more about specific job accommodations by [accessing] Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder.

What Recourse Do Workers With ADHD Have When Accommodations Are Not Provided?

SGK: Employers who receive job accommodation requests are encouraged to participate in the job accommodation process and act expeditiously in granting job accommodations. In situations whereby the employer fails to cooperate or denies reasonable accommodations, employees can file a complaint with the EEOC, the federal agency that enforces the ADA and other civil rights laws. The EEOC's number is 1-800-669-4000. The timeframe for filing is 180 days from the date of alleged discrimination. Employees may also have remedy options under state laws.

Click here to find an alphabetical list of State Civil Rights Offices: Civil Rights Agencies/State Fair Employment Practice Agencies.

Susan's Experience

Unfortunately, About.com user Susan is going though this complaint process. What are her thoughts? “Initially, I felt shock, confusion, frustration, anger, betrayal, and especially injustice,” recalls Susan. “As I have been coming to peace and pride in having ADD, I have a new appreciation for just how different our/my wiring is from most people. Linear and global thinkers need each other to succeed in life – especially on the job. At work it often becomes an issue of ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ instead of ‘try it’ or ‘I never thought of that.’”

Susan has also found support in connecting with other people who have ADD/ADHD through websites and books. “This helps me remind myself I am not alone and [that] my ‘wiring’ serves a purpose. It is too easy to base our self image on negative messages we receive, especially around performance.”

Finally, Susan finds strength in reviewing printouts of past aptitude/personality tests she has taken. “They give me words of encouragement and hope. This helps a great deal as they speak about me uniquely. There are words in them like leader, strategic thinker, innovator, and problem-solver, which are some of my favorites! Interestingly enough, 'failure' was never in any of those results.”


Dr. Suzanne Gosden Kitchen. Personal interview/correspondence. 29, Jan. 08 and 20, Feb 08.

Susan Personal interview/correspondence. 9, Jan. 08.

Photo © Microsoft

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